Hangover Mythbusters

The Superbowl is just days away and for many revelers that means enjoying some cocktails while rooting for their favorite team.  Too much imbibing also means a Monday morning hangover.  There are a lot of misconceptions out there about how to avoid and cure hangovers—like eating a late night snack to absorb the alcohol in your stomach or drinking coffee to cure a hangover.   Here are a few mythbusters:

Myth: Alcohol helps you sleep well

Fact: Many people have a glass of wine to help them sleep, but actually alcohol disrupts sleep.  While a nightcap may help you fall asleep more quickly it interferes with the quality of your sleep.  You don’t spend enough time in the deepest cycle of sleep called the REM cycle and since you sleep more lightly you wake up earlier.

Myth: Take acetaminophen before bedtime to relieve your hangover in the morning.

Fact: Taking acetaminophen is actually potentially very dangerous.  Normally when you take acetaminophen your liver metabolizes it by converting it into harmless compounds, but when you’ve been drinking, the liver is busy metabolizing the alcohol so it shunts the acetaminophen to a separate pathway that metabolizes it into toxic compounds.  These compounds can cause liver inflammation and possibly liver failure.  Instead you should stick to ibuprofen- it not only helps with the headache but treats inflammation.

Myth: Drinking coffee is a good cure the next morning

Fact: Alcohol dehydrates you by stopping the production of a hormone that allows you to retain water.  Coffee is a diuretic, which causes you to lose more fluids and could make your hangover worse.   After a night of drinking you should avoid all caffeine and instead drink water and sports drinks with electrolytes to counter dehydration and replace lost electrolytes.

Myth: A morning mimosa eases a hangover

Fact: The infamous “hair of the dog that bit you” cocktail doesn’t cure a hangover—it merely postpones it until later in the day.  Hangovers set in when blood-alcohol levels start to fall and the worst symptoms begin when the levels drop to zero.

Myth: Eating before bed will absorb the alcohol in your stomach and ease a hangover.

Fact:  Not true.  Food has to be in your stomach BEFORE you drink to help a hangover, that’s because the alcohol is delivered to your bloodstream more slowly giving it less of a chance to reach high levels.  All food slows digestion but fatty meals work best so eat a steak or pizza for example.  Instead of eating before bed you should drink a full glass of water before bedtime.

Myth: Wine is a gentler choice for you than beer.

Fact: When it comes to how you feel the next day, beer is the gentler choice.  Certain compounds in red wine can trigger headaches in susceptible people, which just makes the hangover worse.  Malt liquors, like whisky, also tend to produce more severe hangovers.  Overall, your best bet is to stick to lighter colored alcohols like vodka and beer.

Myth: I can match my husband drink for drink.

Fact: No way!  Women will always get more intoxicated on a smaller dose than men even if you weigh the same. The reason for this is that men have a higher percentage of water in their bodies, which dilutes the alcohol.  Plus men have higher levels of the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol so they break it down better than women.

Myth: Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, never fear.

Fact: Bottom line is it isn’t which order that you consume your drinks in that matters, it’s the total amount of alcohol that you consume.  With any alcohol, your inhibition decreases which often leads to drinking more…so if you start with a beverage that has a higher alcohol content your inhibition goes down more quickly and you tend to drink more.

Are You Stressed Out?

Are you stressed out?  Here are some tell tale signs that you may be suffering from stress:

Are you agitated easily when someone cuts you off on the subway stairs?

Have you been visiting the local Starbucks more often because you are tired all the time?

Do you suffer from frequent colds?

Are you tossing and turning in bed all night?

If so then you may be more stressed than you realized.  Here are some tips to deal with stress more effectively:

  1. Get moving.  Just 30 minutes of walking is a great stress buster- that’s only 20 blocks and back!
  2. Pick up that cell phone. Call a friend to vent.
  3. When you take your lunch break don’t talk about work.  Clearing your head can give you a fresh start.
  4. Listen to your iPod.  Getting into your music can be a great distraction from your worries.
  5. Do brunch but that’s it.  Don’t over schedule your weekend.  It’s fine to do brunch on a Sunday but don’t commit to dinner and a movie on the same day.
  6. Put down that cocktail.  Alcohol can actually make you more sensitive to stress.

Tips To Stay Cool In Hot Weather

It feels like a jungle out there, and not the concrete kind. The weather is sweltering this week and that means we have to protect ourselves from the heat. Heat exhaustion doesn’t just occur when someone has been out in the hot wilderness without water. It can occur right in our homes, on a job site or any place where you are exerting yourself outside for long periods of time. The people most at risk for developing heat exhaustion are those who exercise outdoors and the elderly.

Be on the alert for avoiding dehydration. Sweating is our main cooling mechanism and can cause the body to lose significant amounts of water. If you don’t replenish these losses you can become dehydrated. The first sign of dehydration is not the sensation of thirst surprisingly, but is actually fatigue and irritability. Thirst lags behind dehydration, so up to a point, we tend to forgo drinking when we need it most. Dehydration is a preventable condition- activities should be avoided during peak sunlight hours, consume plenty of fluids (at least 8 glasses a day!) and eat foods high in water like watermelon or cucumbers.

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to dehydration- the body becomes overwhelmed by heat.

You may experience dizziness, muscle cramps, headache, nausea and dry mouth. If you are experiencing these symptoms cool the body down by taking a cool shower and going into an air conditioned room, lie down and rehydrate with a cool beverage.

Here are some tips for staying cool:

Wear light clothing. If you have to go out in the sun, wear a hat and protect your eyes from harsh light with sunglasses.
Stay indoors and out of the sun, especially during the hottest part of the day (10am-2pm). Exercise in the morning or evening.
Drink plenty of fluids. Drink about eight glasses of water a day. Sports drinks also can help replace the salt and minerals lost from sweating.
Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks. They are a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration.
Take a cool shower if you don’t have easy access to air conditioning.
Never leave anyone in a locked car during the hot weather, even for just a few minutes. Temperatures can rise quickly in the car, leaving those inside to suffer heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Both conditions are serious, and heat stroke can be fatal.

Brain Effects From Drug Usage

The death of Amy Winehouse is a powerful example of how drug and alcohol addiction can take hold of and destroy people’s lives. Every year abuse of alcohol and illegal substances contributes to the death of more than 100,000 Americans.

So how do drugs work in the brain to produce pleasure? Most drugs cause the brain to release excessive amounts of dopamine. Flooding the brain with dopamine causes an intense state of euphoria and this response strongly motivates people to take drugs again and again.

We now know that if one continues to use the drug there are real changes that occur in the brain. First, the brain adjusts to the overwhelming surges in dopamine by producing less of it on its own. As a result the drug abusers brain loses the ability to experience pleasure without the drug. There are also profound changes in the brain circuitry that can actually be visualized on brain imaging studies.

But addiction does not have to be a life sentence. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully. Because addiction impacts so many areas of people’s lives including their ability to function at work, with family and in the community, a treatment plan must address the needs of the whole person. Typically a comprehensive program with a variety of rehabilitative services such as counseling, vocational services, medication and legal support is necessary.

If you think your drug use is out of control get help. The sooner you seek help the greater your chances are for a long-term recovery.